A Practical Guide to Content and Its Metrics

A small disclaimer:

Before you start reading, I want to say that I am not an analytics expert per se, but a strategic SEO and digital marketing consultant. On the other hand, in my daily work of auditing and designing holistic digital marketing strategies, I deal a lot with Analytics in order to understand my clients’ gaps and opportunities.

For that reason, what you are going to read isn’t an “ultimate guide,” but instead my personal and practical guide to content and its metrics, filled with links to useful resources that helped me solving the big contents’ metric mystery. I happily expect to see your ideas in the comments.

The difference between content and formats

One of the hardest things to measure is content effectiveness, mostly because there exists great confusion about its changing nature and purpose. One common problem is thinking of “content” and “formats” as synonyms, which leads to frustration and, with the wrong scaling processes present, may also lead to Google disasters.

What is the difference between content and formats?

  1. Content is any message a brand/person delivers to an audience;
  2. Formats are the specific ways a brand/person can deliver that message (e.g. data visualizations, written content, images/photos, video, etc.).

Just to be clear: We engage and eventually share the ideas and emotions that content represents, not its formats. Formats are just the clothing we choose for our content, and keeping the fashion metaphor, some ways of dressing are better than others for making a message more explicit.

Strategy, as in everything in marketing, also plays a very important role when it comes to content.

It is during the strategic phase that we attempt to understand (both thanks to our own site analysis and competitive analysis of others’ sites) if our content is responding to our audience’s interests and needs, and also to understand what metrics we must choose in order to assess its success or failure.

Paraphrasing an old Pirelli commercial tagline: Content without strategy is nothing.

Strategy: Starting with why/how/what

When we are building a content strategy, we should ask ourselves (and our clients and CMOs) these classic questions:

  1. Why does the brand exist?
  2. How does the brand solidify its “why?”
  3. What specific tactics will the brand use for successfully developing the “how?”

Only when we have those answers can we understand the goals of our content, what metrics to consider, and how to calculate them.

Let use an example every Mozzer can understand.

Why does Moz exist?

The answer is in its tagline:

  • Inbound marketing is complicated. Moz’s software makes it easy.

How does Moz solidify its “why?”

  • Moz produces a series of tools, which help marketers in auditing, monitoring and taking insightful decisions about their web marketing projects.
  • Moreover, Moz creates and publishes content, which aims to educate marketers to do their jobs better.

If you notice, we can already pick out a couple of generic goals here:

  1. Leads > subscriptions;
  2. Awareness (that may ultimately drive leads).

What specific tactics does Moz use for successfully achieving its main goals?

Considering the nature of the two main goals we clarified above, we can find content tactics covering all the areas of the so-called content matrix.

Some classic content matrix models are the ones developed by Distilled (in the image above) andSmart Insights and First 10, but it is a good idea to develop your own based on the insights you may have about your specific industry niche.

The things Moz does are many, so I am presenting an incomplete list here.

In the “Purchase” side and with conversion and persuasion as end goals:

  • Home page and “Products” section of Moz.com (we can define them as “organic landing pages”);
  • Content about tools
    • Free tools;
    • Pro tools (which are substantially free for a 30-day trial period).
  • CPC landing pages;
  • Price page with testimonials;
  • “About” section;
  • Events sponsorship.

In the “Awareness” side and with educational and entertainment (or pure engagement) purposes:

  • The blogs (both the main blog and UGC);
  • The “Learn and Connect” section, which includes the Q&A;
  • Guides;
  • Games (The SEO Expert Quiz can surely be considered a game);
  • Webinars;
  • Social media publishing;
  • Email marketing
  • Live events (MozCon and LocalUp, but also the events where Moz Staff is present with one or more speakers).

Once we have the content inventory of our web site, we can relatively easily identify the specific goals for the different pieces of content, and of the single type of content we own and will create.

I will usually not consider content like tools, sponsorship, or live events, because even though content surely plays a role in their goals’ achievement, there are also other factors like user satisfaction and serendipity involved which are not directly related to content itself or cannot be easily measured.

Measuring landing/conversion pages’ content

This may be the easier kind of content to measure, because it is deeply related to the more general measures of leads and conversions, and it is also strongly related to everything CRO.

We can measure the effectiveness of our landing/conversion pages’ content easily with Google Analytics, especially if we remember to implement content grouping (here’s the official Google guide) and follow the suggestions Jeff Sauer offered in this post on Moz.


We can find another great resource and practical suggestions in this older (but still valid) post by Justin Cutroni: How to Use Google Analytics Content Grouping: 4 Business Examples. The example Justin offers about Patagonia.com is particularly interesting, because it is explicitly about product pages.

On the other hand, we should always remember that the default conversion rate metric should not be taken as the only metric to incorporate into decision-making; the same is true when it comes to content performance and optimization. In fact, as Dan Barker said once, the better we segment our analysis the better we can understand the performance of our money pages, give a better meaning to the conversion rate value and, therefore, correct and improve our sales and leads.

Good examples of segmentation are:

  • Conversions per returning visitor vs new visitor;
  • Conversions per type of visitor based on demographic data;
  • Conversions per channel/device.

These segmented metrics are fundamental for developing A/B tests with our content.

Here are some examples of A/B tests for landing/conversion pages’ content:

  • Title tags and meta description A/B tests (yes, title tags and meta descriptions are content too, and they have a fundamental role in CTR and “first impressions”);
  • Prominent presence of testimonials vs. a more discreet one;
  • Tone of voice used in the product description (copywriting experiment);
  • Product slideshow vs. video.

Here are a few additional sources about CRO and content, surely better than me for inspiring you in this specific field:

Post time: Aug-10-2015